Spoiled Cats - or Happy Family?
Can You Spoil a Cat?
Cats are easy to spoil, when you love them as much as we do in our family. But, is it a bad idea to spoil a cat? And what does that ‘spoiling’ really mean anyway?
ShiShi and Haku are basically house cats. They have free roaming inside our screened patio (when they haven’t torn the screens climbing after lizards, at least!) We also take them outside on leashes to explore nearby parts of our neighborhood, and more recently we’ve been adventuring at a local park. Our long-term goal is that they will be flexible tempered cats who travel easily to many different places. But for now, a good 95% of their lives is spent in one tiny territory – our house.
The wildcats that our indoor cats were bred from establish territories that cover hundreds of miles (although females generally roam less than males.) And even a feral domestic cat will claim a territory that covers many acres. That’s a whole lot of area, with a massive number of interesting things for a cat to sniff, inspect, hunt and poke around in, while our whole yard + house is well under a ½ acre in total.
The Family Cat
I don’t think that ShiShi and Haku are stressed in any way by not being able to roam that kind of area, but I do believe that maximum stimulation at home helps to keep them healthy and happy. That’s where all this ‘spoiling’ comes in. And yes, I totally understand that this isn’t what works for everyone. We all have to find our own path when it comes to the best way to incorporate a pet into the family. But it really, REALLY works for us. Our two very ‘spoiled’ cats are by far the most generously loving and joyful of all the cats we have been blessed with over time.
Our cats know that they are an integral part of our family, and they pay us back with unlimited love. They are always ready to snuggle with an angst-y teen, eternally ready to keep company while chores are being done around the house, and they carefully guard the doors or migrate from bed to bed all night long to keep us safe. There isn’t a member of our household who doesn’t believe that THEY are both kitties' favorite, because of all the ‘extra loving’ they receive. And with six humans at home most days, that’s saying a lot!
Before you start to wonder about my definition of spoiling, I’m not actually that fond of giving my cats lots of treats (except when training for a desired behavior, or playing tricks-fur-treats), so that’s not the spoiling that I’m talking about here. It’s more about the other things that we choose to do with our cats that non-cat-spoilers often don't understand. At all.
It’s not that I have argument with those other 'don't spoil them' opinions – it’s more that I want to share what is working so very well for us. In this age of fewer personal interactions and connections, more people than ever before are turning to their pets to fill in that gap. And in turn, the desire for a new kind of closeness with our pets is leading to a new way of treating these generous and loving companions.
The Nitty Gritty of our Cat Spoiling
One of our favorite tried-and-true spoiling methods involves keeping a cute basket in the middle of our dining room table for the kitties - most especially Haku. (Our whole family laughed so hard in sympathy when we saw a photo of a French cat eating Christmas dinner with his family, while sitting in the bread basket!) Poor Haku gets so depressed if he’s left out of meal times that we’ve been known to pull up a chair for him if we need all the table space for a large meal! Does he get his meals served at the table? Nope – he just really wants to be part of the important activities that we do together. And we enjoy his company, especially when one or the other of us is eating alone with our busy schedules.
And then there are the two stools that I often set in the middle of the kitchen for our cats to jump up on and watch while I’m cooking. And yes – I even hold up interesting things for them to sniff while I’m fixing dinner. They love to check out the different ingredients, and I laugh SO hard at their funny faces when they smell something that they don’t like. Honestly, if I could only manage capture those looks digitally (and the pepper sneezes!) I’d probably have made my first million by now…
Of course, there are many other examples of this ‘spoiling craziness’ – like building temporary cat forts if we have unending bad weather. And taking time out to do tricks-for-treats training if the kitties are acting bored or asking for attention. Our cats are simply never yelled at or sprayed down with a water bottle or anything else when something goes wrong. Instead they are picked up and gently moved with a sad face and a hug. Believe it or not, this works great for behavior modification – they listen! Basically, ShiShi and Haku are treated the way we would want to be treated ourselves – with love and respect for their needs to remain healthy, connected and interested in life.
Is there a right’ kind of spoiling for a cat? Maybe. I think that there is, at least for us. That answer is definitely going to vary for every cat-blessed family, though. Do you ‘spoil’ your cats too? And how?
Training Tip of the Day:
People often comment to me about how they wish that their cats were 'cuddlier' or more social in other ways. Don't be shy of using (healthy!) treats to reinforce the social actions that you'd like to enjoy with your cat!
If you want your cat to sit in your lap, tempt them with treats to bring them close while you are sitting down. If you want your cat to snuggle in bed with you, do the same. If your cat doesn't allow petting, or hates to be picked up - same! Over time, most cats will learn that good things come from doing that action and that it is safe and happy, and will do it without the reward of treats. If they eventually stop, repeat all over again - it's totally worth it!
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